"Government of the people, by the people, and for the people"
mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Wed Feb 21 06:22:27 PST 2007
Nice question. Here's a stab at an answer: "Of the people" means that
representatives are drawn from the general body of the people, and not from
some subset (like aristocrats who might be thought - perhaps accurately - to
be able to take the people's interests into account), and "by the people"
means that representatives are chosen by the general body of the people.
William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law
Harvard Law School
Cambridge, MA 02138
ph: 617-496-4451 (office); 202-291-6352 (home); 202-374-9571 (mobile);
From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu
[mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of rjlipkin at aol.com
Sent: Wednesday, February 21, 2007 8:44 AM
To: CONLAWPROF at lists.ucla.edu
Subject: "Government of the people, by the people, and for the people"
The phrase "government of the people, by the people, and for the
people" periodically eludes my understanding. I'm talking about elementary
understanding, nothing sophisticated, nothing theoretical, nothing
pertaining to scholarship. I'm in one of those periods now. And so I turn
to my sisters and brothers on this List for a Civics One tutorial. Here's
Let's start with the easiest phrase (I think): "for the people." This
phrase refers to the purpose of government. Right? Government is designed
not to aggrandize kings, priests, or aristocrats, but for all the people in
The first two elements of government--"of the people and by the
people"--give me trouble. The first presumably means that the government is
made up of the very same people the fruits of government are for. Is that
right? If it is, then what does "by the people mean." If it means the
government is also run by the people, then precisely how do the first two
phrases differ? If the government is made up of the people, then it should
follow that it also is run by the people unless there is some sort of a
distinction between government being of the people and the daily operations
of government which can be outsourced to a private corporation which runs
the government in question.
One final point: I am in earnest. The entire phrase puzzles me. Its
meaning seems so obvious. But when I start to analyze it, I cannot
confidently draw the distinction. Thanks to all.
Robert Jusitn Lipkin
Professor of Law
Widener University School of Law
Ratio Juris: Contributor: <http://ratiojuris.blogspot.com/>
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